West Virginia Bankruptcy Exemptions

Learn about the property you can protect in bankruptcy using West Virginia's bankruptcy exemptions.

Updated January 29, 2019

You won’t lose everything when filing for bankruptcy in West Virginia. West Virginia’s bankruptcy exemptions allow you to protect property you’ll need to work and live, such as a home, car, and retirement account.

West Virginia Exemptions v. Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions

West Virginia, like every state, has a set of bankruptcy exemptions. Federal bankruptcy exemptions also exist.

Some states allow residents to choose between the state and federal exemption laws, but not West Virginia. You’ll use West Virginia’s state exemptions and, if they’re helpful, the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.

To learn more about bankruptcy exemptions, the state exemption system, and the homestead exemption rules, read Bankruptcy Exemptions – What Can I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?

Common West Virginia Bankruptcy Exemptions

Here are some of the more common exemptions in West Virginia. When reviewing them, you’ll want to keep these things in mind:

  • Joint filing. Unless otherwise noted, when spouses file together in West Virginia, each spouse can claim the full amount of the exemption (informally called “doubling”) as long as each spouse has an ownership interest in the property.
  • List and verify your exemptions. You must claim an exemption by listing it in the official bankruptcy forms. You might qualify for exemptions not included in this article, or be required to meet qualification requirements. Consulting with a local bankruptcy attorney is the best way to ensure that you’re protecting your assets.
  • Legal citations. You’ll find each of the statutes in the West Virginia Code or the federal law.

West Virginia Homestead Exemption

38-10-4 - Real or personal property used as a residence up to $25,000. Unused portion can be applied to any other property (see the wildcard exemption).

West Virginia Motor Vehicle Exemption

38-10-4 – Equity in a motor vehicle up to $2,400.

West Virginia Wildcard Exemption

38-10-4(e) - $800 plus any unused portion of homestead or burial exemption can be used to protect any personal property (property other than real estate).

Other West Virginia Exemptions

Personal Property

38-10-4 - Clothing, household goods, furnishings, appliances, books, musical instruments, animals, and crops up to $400 per item and $8,000 total; jewelry up to $1,000; health aids; lost earnings payments needed for support; personal injury recoveries up to $15,000 (pain and suffering and pecuniary awards excluded); prepaid higher education trust fund and savings plan payments; and wrongful death recoveries for a person you depended upon for support.

38-10-4 - Burial plot up to $25,000 (must be used instead of the homestead exemption).

Wages

38-5A-3 - Minimum of 30 times the federal hourly minimum wage per week. A judge might approve more for a low-income debtor.

Pensions

11 U.S.C. § 522 - Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans).

11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C)(n) - IRAS and Roth IRAs to maximum (amount changes).

5-10-46 - Public employees.

18-7A-30 - Teachers.

38-10-4 - ERISA-qualified benefits and IRAs needed for support.

Public Benefits

38-10-4 - Crime victims' compensation; unemployment compensation; public assistance; Social Security; disability; and Veterans' benefits.

Tools of Trade

38-10-4 - Tools, books and implements of trade up to $1,500.

Alimony and Child Support

38-10-4 - Alimony and child support needed for support.

Insurance

33-6-28 - Group life insurance policy and proceeds.

38-10-4 - Unmatured life insurance contract (except for credit life insurance contract); life insurance dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value for person you depended; and unmatured life insurance contracts' accrued loan value, interest, or dividend up to $8,000 as long as the debtor owns the contract and the insured is either the debtor or a person the debtor is dependant upon.

Other

Add any applicable Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.

Nonexempt Property—Property You Can’t Protect With a West Virginia Exemption

Some people can keep all assets, but that isn’t always true. Here’s what will happen to nonexempt property:

  • In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the bankruptcy trustee appointed to administer your case will sell nonexempt property and distribute the proceeds to creditors. Find out more about the bankruptcy process and the Chapter 7 documents you'll need at each stage.
  • In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, it works differently. You can keep everything you own, but you’ll pay creditors the value of the nonexempt property, your disposable income, or your nondischargeable debt (support obligations, most taxes, and the like), whichever is more, through your Chapter 13 repayment plan.

You’ll learn more about Chapter 7 and 13 in Which Type of Bankruptcy is Right for Me?

Confirming West Virginia Exemptions

This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in West Virginia. However, doesn’t include all exemptions. Also, states often create qualification requirements for specific exemptions, and West Virginia might have changed the amounts since this list was last updated. Check the West Virginia Code or with a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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